10 Questions with ... Reba
December 7, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Reba was discovered while singing the National Anthem at a rodeo while still in college. She has recorded 26 albums since 1977, garnering 40 #1 singles and selling more than 80 million albums. Reba's list of awards for her musical career alone is staggering, beginning with her 1984 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award. She was voted Entertainer of the Year by the CMA and ACM in 1986 and 1994, respectively. Her huge success in music lead to film roles, beginning with "Tremors," then an extended run on Broadway, where she starred in "Annie Get Your Gun." Reba eventually segued to television, starring in two sitcoms, "Reba" and "Malibu Country." Reba announced a return to recorded music in October, when she signed with the newly launched NASH Icon label, a partnership between Cumulus Media and The Big Machine Label Group.
1. How do you feel about where you are and what you want to say musically at this point?
What I want to say musically is pretty much what I've always said: We've got the greatest writers in the world here in Nashville. And I have found - well, [BMLG Sr./VP A&R] Allison Jones has found it - she and I together have chosen these songs to get to sing. And it's just a huge thrill for me to have this outlet to get these songwriters' stories out to the public. I'm always kind of like the water hose. I'm the conduit from the songwriters' heart and soul, where they write and conceive, then to get it out to the fans. I love that part.
2. Is there an anything you can tell us about the sound of your new record?
Narvel described it as being closer to 'Starting Over Again.' I'd play him a demo and say, 'What do you think?' And he'd say, 'That's a guy-song. I don't know how it's gonna sound when you sing it.' And we'd get in the studio, and he'd say, 'Okay, you made it your own.' So it's kind of those interpretive type things that I really get a kick out of. We've got happy, sad, slow, fast. We've got a drinkin' song in there. And for the first time in a long time, I've got a love song. A true, to the heart and soul, love song. Don't have many of those. So I'm really tickled.
3. Why does radio airplay still matter to you?
It just does. It is the getting it out there to the public. It is our other extension of communication. It's necessary; it's always been necessary. It's always been our voice. Radio lets us have a voice to the public, and without radio, it's very hard to get it out to everyone.
4. Can you comment on the lack of newer female artists being developed in Country music?
Well you know just as good as I do that everything happens in a cycle. There was a time when contemporary music was really popular, and then here comes traditional. Then there was a time when the girls kind of took over, and right now it's the boys taking over. And I think it's time for the girls to come back in a little stronger. And I think I made a comment, 'When is it going to get back to where you hear two female songs in a row on radio?' Ya know, you'll hear one female, and then you'll hear ten men, and then one female. I want it to get back to where it's at least equal - or maybe a little bit heavier on the female. But, yeah, it's time for the girls to come back. And we need more females in this business, drastically bad.
5. How has the recording process evolved since your first album?
It's faster. With the technology nowadays and our engineers, they're incredible. I mean, you say, 'I want to sing that.' And they say, 'We're ready.' Or 'I want to sing that again,' and they say 'We're ready.' It's not like when we first started and we had those reel-to-reel, big old black ribbon tapes coming around and you had to sing it one time through, and if you messed up sing it a second time through. And then the over-dubs, and you can comp it and make it just right. But one thing we're sticklers about is keeping the emotion. Not to make it perfect. Because I'm not perfect, and when I make a boo-boo every once in a while - I'm not talking about being off pitch - but if it's a little slower and the harmonies are not just right stacked on each other, if it makes it sound like we're all in the living room singing together at a good party, that's the way I like it. I want it to feel heart-felt. I like some soul with it.
6. What are you looking forward to as far as seeing the fans, via concerts, etc?
The best part about my fans, and I know them very well, is they're going to be very excited to have new music coming out, because they're always wanting. I did a little project a while back called 'Pray For Peace,' and we just put it out there for everybody to listen to, because I felt it was a really strong message, and I felt led to record it. And so everybody got a real thrill out of that, and to hear new music. So it just gave me more confidence and more assurance that I'm really sure the fans are going to be tickled to hear more music. They've been with me through thick and thin, through Broadway, television, movies, back to music. And so, they're my team. And I'm glad to be a part of theirs.
7. What other artists are you hoping to see join the NASH Icon label?
There's tons that I want to be a part of this! Brooks & Dunn, Wynonna, Trisha Yearwood...I'm just huge fans. And they may have other things going, too, but the ones I want to hear again - the Vince Gills - all of the MCA roster back in the heyday of MCA. That's who I want to hear on the radio again. But also, I've been listening to NASH Icon 95.5 and hearing songs that I haven't heard in ten years on the radio. And I'm so thrilled and so thankful and so proud of NASH Icon coming up with this idea with Cumulus and joining together and saying, 'Hey, it's time to get this music back out where it needs to be so the people can hear it.'
8. How would you sell artists on this idea?
I would highly recommend it. Because they're on our side. And they want to put not only new songs and new material, but play the songs that my fans grew up on and that they remember these songs. And they go, 'Oh man! That was my favorite, I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard it!' That's the kind of great memories we're going to be hearing a lot about in the next few years.
9. What have you seen lately that you're excited to incorporate in your show?
The Eagles. When I went to see them, it was not a huge production, but it was the roots and the songs. And you know every song you performed. Except for the first couple, they were old songs from the very beginning of their career. And I took away a lot of great notes off of that show. We just flew to Vegas to see Bruno Mars. My second time, Narvel's third time, and you see the relaxed nature of his show, and that they're up there having a good time. It's contagious, and the audience has a good time when the person on stage is. And if the person is uptight and not feeling good about it, the audience is uptight. It's so funny how that feeds back and forth. Fans are very smart, very intelligent. Their feelings are wide open, and they're absorbing all of these emotions. So you learn watching other people. I've seen Cher's show, I've seen Justin Timberlake, I saw Taylor Swift's show, Carrie Underwood. I try to go see as many as I can. I've seen Blake's show two or three times - funny, personality. I've always been a huge fan of going to see people perform. But it's not the songs so much that I want to hear. I want to hear what they have to say. And I want to hear stories. So, consequently, that's what I do on my show; I treat people like I want to be treated, and I give them a story.
10. What was the process of finding songs like - and did you and considering cuts from the newer, younger breed of Nashville songwriters?
Oh, I listened to them several times. I did flirt with the idea, and then honesty stepped in and said, 'Yeah, I don't think that's believable.' I mean, it could happen. But that's a pretty far stretch of the imagination. I try to stay in my wheelhouse of what I'm comfortable singing and it's believable, as I said. The audience is very smart, intelligent, and they're saying, 'Mmm, I don't believe Reba would've been in that situation' or 'That's a little young for her.' Ya know, you've gotta be realistic about everything. But yes, I did flirt with them.
1. And you've worked with familiar producers, Tony brown and James Stroud. Did you consider some of the newer producers in Nashville, such as Michael Knox or Joey Moi?
Not at first. But then I did hear the new Little Big Town album. So, yeah, now I'm considering it. I would love to see what someone else could do with me. But they're in my wheelhouse, and they're easy to work with. There's a lot of great communication, and they know what I like. And I've known both of them for years, so it's comfortable. And it may be time for me to step out of comfort and go try some new stuff. But I want to have my base first, and then I'll kind of go outside my wheelhouse for a little bit of extra stuff. That was a good question - a very good question.
2. How do you compete against your own legacy?
Well, the way I compete is to try to find the best songs possible like I always have. And if they stand up, then we've done our job. And if they don't, then we need to work harder. And that's something I've never been afraid of - work harder. When I see that something has failed, I don't let it beat me up. I take it as constructive criticism and go forward and try to improve upon that.